Meet the Clarke Rendall Team
Chris Horne: Design Manager
We have been producing high-class, contemporary, often bespoke, reception desks and business furniture since 1992 — and one of the main factors behind our continued success is our brilliant team. So we’d like you to find out a little more about the dedicated and passionate people who take your ideas and turn them into furniture and spaces you love.
Today, please meet Chris Horne: Design Manager at Clarke Rendall for almost 17 years.
First of all, what does a Design Manager do?
I mainly work on bespoke designs — creating drawings for approval and generating information for the factory. I don’t come up with the big concept; I’m someone in the background that turns ideas into feasible construction that we can make. (And fit through doorways.)
How did you become a Design Manager?
I studied a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technology degree (focusing on engineering, manufacturing, and materials science). I then worked as a Solidworks CAD instructor for around 6 years. That gave me extensive knowledge in the software. And then Clarke Rendall advertised for a CAD technician…
Did you have a design background?
I have been interested in all areas of design from a young age, including furniture. I initially set out to study Product Design, but went down the technology route as it was ‘new’ back then.
Did going down the tech route take you off-piste? Or is tech vital for what you do?
Totally vital. We do rely on initial sketches, but ultimately all of our design work is 3D-modelled. We can then use models to create rendered visuals and drawings. The 3D model also allows us to check construction is correct, amend it, and then turn it into data for cutting panels in the factory. We are fairly self-sufficient from an ‘in-house’ perspective.
These ‘initial sketches’ - the design briefs you get from clients - how precise are they?
They vary between detailed and vague — and we are happy with either. Less info is okay because we are very familiar with all of the questions we need to ask: What shape? What finishes? Any specialist equipment etc… It’s not uncommon for us to revise a new design several times over — and we respect that needs to happen to get a bespoke design ‘just right’.
For the client, what’s the benefit of working with Clarke Rendall?
Although we have a standard product portfolio, the real benefit to the client is that we are experienced and geared up for ‘one-off’ design manufacture. You cannot buy that ‘off the shelf’. Within reason, our clients are free to come up with abstract or contemporary ideas that we can produce to any size, shape, and within a wide range of materials. I think we are very flexible and we go out of our way to be accommodating.
Sounds like you enjoy a bespoke challenge…
Haha! One springs to mind… Grays Inn Road. The reception desk had a 1500mm cantilever floating in mid-air, which is the largest we have made. It did have steel supports, but we also analysed every panel in the construction to make sure each element was supporting the load. The underlying structure had to be completely robust because the solid surface finish needed to avoid movement and stress points. I’m proud of the consideration that went into the design — and all within a relatively short timescale.
Clarke Rendall is the dream team, then?
Definitely. It’s important to highlight our success is all down to teamwork. At the front-end, we have dialogue between sales and design, but the factory and installation team are also involved at all stages. The combined years of knowledge on the shop floor is an invaluable resource to have on hand. We get the factory guys involved with construction during the design process - interrogating the joinery methods in the 3D model, looking at it from inside, upside down, sectioning through it etc… - so we all understand the design intent. Things have moved on a little from trying to interpret a paper drawing on the shop floor.
Which are your proudest design moments?
As well as the cantilever desk I mentioned earlier, there’s two other projects I’m proud of: Kean Street and The Minster Building. The Kean Street design included a curved Corian® bench that had a heavy glass balustrade sunk into its top. We had to design form-work for pouring concrete on site, and then build the bench around it. It’s unlikely we will get to make something architectural like that for a while.
And The Minster Building? Every part of the project was bespoke. Fielded wall panels, ceiling fins, walnut joinery, boardroom tables… Just over 30 drawings in total. I made several visits to site for measuring all areas as they were built. When you walk away from a site survey, there is a degree of apprehension: ‘Did I miss anything? Have I measured something wrong?’ But I’ve carried out so many surveys, it’s almost second nature now. Projects do have snagging, but even if I’m trying to be modest, I was humbled that every part of that install fitted without a hitch. But, that’s really down to the synergy between design, the makers in the factory, and the installation team.
You’re being very modest! How do you feel when you see your beautiful work in situ?
Positive, mixed, feelings: primarily joy with a small measure of relief!
It is amazing seeing the furniture complete in the factory, and comparing how identical it looked on my screen in the CAD software. Sadly, I don’t get to see all of the jobs when they leave the factory. However, I get to admire how they are constructed which is way more interesting.
Ultimately, what do you want clients to get from your designs?
For me, it’s about ticking all their boxes. It’s not just about how a design looks: functionality is key. That includes space-planning and making provisions for staff who are using the furniture. I like to think that two months down the line, the client isn’t looking at our furniture wondering ‘Why was it done like this?
And is that the job satisfaction for you? Getting it totally right?
Definitely. Years ago, thinking about what type of job or what job title I would’ve liked to have had, it would be my job now. I get a sense of fulfilment from being that person who gets to engineer and make sure the idea can get made.
For further advice and help on how our team can assist you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01908 391600